Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Workforce Group of the ONC Health IT Policy Committee Makes Its Recommendations

For the last nine months, I have had the opportunity to be part of a workgroup of the ONC Health IT Policy Committee focusing on the health IT workforce issues. This week, Larry Wolf, co-chair of the workgroup made a presentation of the group's recommendations to a meeting of the full Health IT Policy Committee.

The recommendations of the workgroup can be summarized as follows:
  1. ONC should summarize and publicize the results of the several workforce development programs it has funded.
  2. ONC should summarize and widely disseminate the core competencies for members of the workforce that it has identified.
  3. ONC should publicize the resources and best practices that they and other organizations have made available.
  4. There is an emerging need for soft and hard skills related to team-based care, population health and patient engagement. ONC should recommend new program development and funding to address these needs.
  5. ONC should learn from what is happening with the current workforce. It should do this by recommending funding of studies on the impact of health IT on the workforce, such as turnover, enrollment in healthcare vocations (schools), and new jobs, such as nurse informaticists.
  6. The current Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) does not address health IT. ONC should host an SOC input process from the health IT community.
While I agree with all of the recommendations that our group made, I would have added two additional recommendations, which actually build on the fourth and fifth recommendations in the list. The first of these emanates in part from the slide presentation, which might be read by some to imply that informatics and IT jobs in healthcare are "technician" jobs. While healthcare organizations certainly need well-trained health IT technicians, this ignores the larger role that informatics will play as advanced health IT is adopted and used as an integral part of efforts such as quality measurement and improvement, accountable and coordinated care, and biomedical advances such as personalized medicine. Health IT is not merely a support function, but a critical component of our armamentarium to achieve the triple aim of improved health, better care, and lower cost.

My second additional recommendation builds on the recommendation for learning about the current workforce. In light of the larger role for health IT described in the previous paragraph, we need a much more comprehensive understanding than just impact on the current workforce and new jobs. We need to better understand not only of current workforce practices but also how to develop and educate the best workforce going forward into the new era of accountable and coordinated care and new advances such as personalized medicine.

I look forward to the continued efforts of the workgroup and our academic program at Oregon Health & Science University is certainly incorporating this forward-looking view as we revise and augment the curricula of our programs.

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